The Nigerian Communications Commission says combatting e-fraud on telecom platforms and building consumer confidence in the digital economy require a collective effort.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, said this at the 2nd Quarter 2023 Industry Consumer Advisory Forum meeting in Lagos on Thursday.
Danbatta said telecom operators, regulatory bodies, law enforcement agencies and consumers must collaborate, with each fulfilling their responsibilities to tackle e-fraud.
He said e-fraud encompassed a wide range of malicious activities carried out via electronic means, including identity theft, phishing, hacking and unauthorised access to personal and financial information, with the intention to defraud or take advantage of victims.
Danbatta noted that these criminal activities might not only cause significant financial losses but also erode consumer trust in the digital ecosystem.
He said in recent years, Nigeria had witnessed remarkable growth in the digital economy, revolutionising the way Nigerians communicated and conducted businesses.
Danbatta noted that the telecom sector played a pivotal role in enabling this digital transformation, providing the infrastructure and connectivity that fueled the interconnected world.
He, however, said the advancements came with new challenges, one of which was the rising tide of e-fraud and cybersecurity concerns.
He said NCC as the regulator of the communications sector had a crucial role to play in combatting e-fraud.
Danbatta added that to further protect telecom consumers, the Nigerian Communications Commission’s Computer Security Incident Response Team periodically notified telecom consumers on the latest cybersecurity threats and how to avoid falling victim to them.
He added: “The NCC also type-approves communications equipment to ensure that they conform to global standards and are interoperable with various relevant technologies.
“We must establish comprehensive legal frameworks and standards that mandate sound security practices for telecom operators.
“The legal framework must focus on data protection, privacy and incident response, ensuring that operators are held accountable for any lapses in security on their respective networks.”
According to EVC of the NCC, law enforcement agencies must also collaborate closely with telecom operators and regulatory bodies to investigate and prosecute e-fraud perpetrators.
He noted that enhanced coordination, information sharing, and dedicated cybercrime units would go a long way in deterring criminals and bringing them to justice.
Danbatta added that strengthening international cooperation in combating cross-border e-fraud was also imperative, as cybercriminals often exploited jurisdictional limitations.
He said combatting e-fraud was not just the responsibility of industry stakeholders and authorities, but equally that of consumers too.
He said: “Building consumer awareness and promoting digital literacy is crucial to empowering individuals to protect themselves.
“Telecom operators should educate their customers about potential risks, provide guidance on secure online practices and offer user-friendly tools to monitor and manage their accounts.”
He stressed that to build consumer confidence in the digital economy, telcos must emphasise transparency and accountability.
Danbatta urged telecom operators to be transparent about their security measures, privacy policies and incident response mechanisms.
He added that collaboration with third-party security firms and independent audits could also help validate the integrity of telecom platforms.
Danbatta also said fostering innovation in security technologies was critical to staying ahead of e-fraudsters.
According to him, investing in robust security infrastructure, implementing stringent protocols, promoting awareness and by fostering innovation telcos could create a safer digital ecosystem.
“We need to rise to the challenge and build a future where the telecom platform is not only a gateway to the digital world but also a fortress against e-fraud,” Danbatta said.
Similarly, the Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau at NCC, Alkasim Umar, said e-fraud posed a significant threat to the society as it undermined the trust and confidence in our digital platforms.
He said the menace was also responsible for hampering economic growth and adversely impacting the lives of citizens.
Umar said as the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the telecommunications industry, the NCC would continue to perform its duty in protecting the interest of consumers.
Emeka Akpa, the Chairman of ICAF, said fraud had escalated as a result of increased digital adoption.
He noted that the situation required organisations to simultaneously combat fraud and provide customers with a seamless digital experience.
Akpa said faster movement of money had also increased the risk of fraud, adding that real-time disbursements were set to double within the year and beyond.
He said: “Risk rises further when unsuspecting customers inadvertently share their authentication details with fraudsters targeting their devices and accounts.
“The evolution of fraud threats has undermined the effectiveness of a reactive approach to combating fraud, which essentially focuses on stopping schemes one by one through manual reviews.”